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Pompeo Arrives in Jordan on 8-Nation Middle East Tour

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, second from left, meets with King Abdullah of Jordan, second from right, Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019, in Amman, Jordan.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in Jordan on the first stop of a Middle East visit due to include stops in Cairo and the Gulf. Arab and Egyptian media report he is expected make an important foreign policy speech Thursday in Cairo.

Pompeo arrived Tuesday in the Middle East at a time when U.S. allies are questioning the Trump Administration's policies regarding key issues of regional concern like the conflict in Syria, joint efforts to confront what many perceive as Iranian expansionism, and diplomacy to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict.

In a news conference with Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi, Pompeo insisted the United States has not changed its longstanding policies, despite President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from Syria.

"The counter-Iran coalition is just as effective today, as it was yesterday, and I am very hopeful it will continue to be effective and even more effective, tomorrow," Pompeo said. "This is not just about a particular tactic that we take among the coalition. This is about a combined understanding that the most significant threat to the region is Da'esh and the (Iranian Islamic Revolution) and their revolutionary efforts in the region."

Pompeo vowed the United States is planning to "redouble (its) diplomatic and commercial efforts to put real pressure on Iran."

Foreign Minister Safadi insisted Jordan and other U.S. allies in the region agree Iran needs to abide by international norms of behavior.

"We all have problems with Iran's expansionist policies in the region. We all want to make sure that whatever threat there is is mitigated," said Safadi.

Egyptian political sociologist Said Sadek tells VOA he believes Pompeo is planning to sound out Jordan and Egypt about sending peacekeeping troops to northern Syria, after the United States pulls out.

"The agenda (of Sec. Pompeo) in Egypt and Jordan has to do with fighting terrorism and also the situation in Syria, and if Egypt and Jordan can contribute forces, with (international) guarantees, American and maybe also Russian, that there will be no attack against those troops," said Sadek.

Sadek says Cairo is not likely to send troops to Syria, absent iron-clad international guarantees they would not be attacked, especially given Egypt's chronically tense relations with Turkey, which borders northern Syria.

University of Paris Political Science Professor Khattar Abou Diab points out Egypt's longstanding policy is not to send troops to foreign lands, and Cairo has involved only its naval forces in the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.

Abu Diab says U.S. Arab allies are trying to clarify U.S. intentions.

He says Egyptian officials wonder if the Trump Administration's much-touted "Deal of the Century" in the Arab-Israeli conflict will soon see the light of day. Other U.S. allies, he thinks, are trying to better understand what Washington is expecting regarding Iran, following the imposition of new U.S. sanctions last November.

He adds some U.S. allies worry Russia is strengthening its position in the region, "while the United States is continuing the policy it began under the Obama Administration to slowly pull out."

Secretary Pompeo will also visit Egypt, Bahrain, Qatar, the UAE, Oman, and Kuwait during his trip.